Oyler: 'ancient forts and mines' along the Ohio River
The May program meeting for the Bridgeville Area Historical Society was a presentation by Larry Gallant entitled "Ancient Fortresses of the Monongahela and Ohio River Valleys."
Gallant, who is an associate editor of "Ancient American Magazine," described himself as a lifelong amateur archaeologist.
The magazine provides a forum for speculation regarding alternative views of history, based upon the existence of non-conforming artifacts.
Its purpose is "to describe the prehistory of the American continent, regardless of presently fashionable beliefs — to provide a public forum for certified experts and nonprofessionals alike to freely express their views without fear or favor. In sharp contrast to majority academic opinion, its editorial position stands firmly on behalf of evidence for the arrival of overseas visitors to the Americas hundreds and even thousands of years before Columbus."
Gallant's format was to present information regarding archaeological artifacts that have been discovered and cannot easily be explained by conventional accepted views of history, and to then report on alternative theories that have been presented to explain them.
In keeping with his announced subject, he began by reporting on evidence of ancient fortresses in the Ohio River watershed.
One of Gallant's colleagues has found evidence of three such fortresses along the river, in Ohio and Indiana.
Each of the sites was well documented in the 19th century; unfortunately they have all been obliterated by more recent development. They appear to be examples of what conventional historians consider to be relics of the "Mound Builder" culture.
Roman coins have been found in a number of locations along the Ohio River. Several old maps indicate the presence of "ancient forts and mines."
Two of these forts were located along the Monongahela River, near Fayette City and Belle Vernon. Gallant is convinced there was a third fort along the "Mon," near Coal Hill. He and his son have searched the area, employing a dowsing rod, and have discovered a rectangular area about 135 feet long which may be the site of the fort. Nearby, they found a barn built with large stone blocks that he believes were taken from the fort site.
One of the old fort sites is at Ben's Run, on the Ohio River. It is 65 miles due west of Fairmont, W. Va., another location where someone believes there was a Roman settlement.
The connection with the Romans is associated with the historical mystery of the disappearance of the Ninth Roman Legion. Conventional history believes that the legion was disbanded after being badly defeated by barbarians in Britain in 117 AD, while Hadrian was emperor, and that this prompted the construction of Hadrian's Wall.
At any rate, the Ninth was no longer recorded in the list of active legions compiled during Marcus Aurelius' reign in 161 AD. The alternative historians suggest that the legion was sent to North America on a special mission by Hadrian and that they explored most of the Mississippi Basin.
This would have been an impressive logistical project, since the legion consisted of 6,000 fighting men and 4,000 more support troops and civilians.
Another alternative scenario is based on the well- documented discovery of ancient copper mines in Michigan. It is speculated that these mines were operated at the height of the Bronze Age in the Middle East and that hundreds of thousands of tons of refined copper were shipped across the Atlantic Ocean at that time. The contrast between the technological capability of the Native Americans, whom the settlers encountered during Colonial times, and that required to mine and transport large quantities of copper long distances suggests to the alternative historians that some other people inhabited North America 4,000 years ago.
Throughout all the North American alternative historical scenarios is the opinion that the Native Americans of colonial times were incapable of producing a culture that is represented by non-conforming artifacts.
We believe it is constructive for non-professionals to continue to report the presence of evidence that suggests our current ideas about history must continually be reconsidered.
We are not convinced that the alternative history scenarios without evidence warrant much serious consideration.
Reach columnist John Oyler at 412-343-1652 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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